Firm behind mass testing hit by lawsuit

Local | Jane Cheung 17 Sep 2020

BGI Genomics, the mainland firm commissioned by the government to carry out recent territory-wide Covid-19 testing, will stop providing new local clients with a DNA sequencing service that has been drawn into a patent infringement lawsuit.

But the controversial genome sequencing service is not related to coronavirus test kits, as BGI's subsidiary in Hong Kong - Sunrise Diagnostic Centre - has helped the SAR in testing high-risk groups and general citizens in the territory-wide testing scheme.

US firm Illumina Cambridge last month applied for an injunction with the high court against BGI selling 56 test kits and 18 reagents involving a "modified nucleotides for polynucleotide sequencing" technique, which Illumina possesses a Hong Kong patent for.

The writ also demanded BGI retrieve and destroy all sold test kits, and pay compensation to Illumina.

High court judge David Lok yesterday adjourned the case to February 24.

In the meantime, BGI promised to restrict its businesses and will refrain from providing the related test kits to new local clients, but it can supply a controlled amount of stocks for existing customers.

While it can look for new clients overseas, the related test kits cannot be opened or altered when they are exported via Hong Kong.

BGI rejected a request by Illumina to disclose the lawsuit involvement to its current customers and to hand over information of its clients.

The court will handle the two requests on February 24.

All six defendants were BGI's subsidiaries, including MGI Tech based in Shenzhen, where BGI's headquarters is, and five in Hong Kong - BGI Complete Genomics, MGI International Sales, BGI-Hongkong, BGI Tech Solutions and BGI Health.

Sunrise director Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said the mass testing was a successful example of public-private partnership, adding labs for large-scale tests can be set up within days in the next wave of outbreaks.

He said the price tag for Covid-19 tests in Hong Kong has been lowered.

"Now you can get tested for HK$800 to HK$1,000," Wu said. "Of course the level of salaries and rents in Hong Kong cannot be compared with the mainland, but HK$1,000 can be further pushed down."

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